Conservatives and Tea Party Republicans everywhere celebrate the centennial of the birth of Pres. Ronald Reagan this week.
Not to take anything away from this national obeisance to The Gipper, nor to take anything away from The Gipper himself, it should be noted that certain fringe conservative groups have spent the better part of two decades burnishing his legacy.
In the wake of the Iran-Contra affair — where the Reagan Administration negotiated with some of the same terrorists who had held members of our diplomatic corps hostage in Iran for 444 days — the legacy needed some attention. But, in the process, those fringe groups (who, today, make up the core of the Tea Party) blurred the line between Reagan’s mythos and the historic facts.
Despite Reagan’s own admonition that “facts are stupid,” (yes, he really said that) there is a difference. In fact, Reagan:
- allowed the national debt to skyrocket from $700 billion to $3 trillion during his administration, a number that dwarfed the deficit generated by all previous presidents combined.
- raised taxes 11 times during his administration, mostly in an effort to roll back much of the 1981 tax cut that he himself later acknowledged was excessive. (As one economic historian put it, the assertion that the 1981 tax cut lead to the thriving economy of the late 1990s is about as silly as supposing that Pres. Nixon’s socialistic price-freezes lead to “Morning in America.”)
- raised taxes in 1983 to reinforce the Medicare/Medicaid network (a government-run health care program) and Social Security.
- worked diligently with Democratic opponents to find common ground. He would talk the “small government conservative” talk but bowed to pragmatism when it came to governing. He is rightly remembered today as The Great Communicator, but he could easily have been called The Great Compromiser, contrary to his image as an iron-fisted conservative.
- presided over the creation of the largest expansion of federal government since the Great Depression. He created the Department of Veteran’s Affairs — an expansion of government that was sorely needed — and added 60,000 jobs to the government’s payroll in the process. Imagine the hue and cry the Tea Party would raise if anyone suggested such a thing today.
- “cut and ran” from a terrorist attack that killed 241 Marines in Lebanon …
- … then, in a case of military over-kill, took out his frustrations on a small Caribbean nation.
It may be right and proper that Americans laud our 40th president but let’s keep a sense of proportion here. The truth is, if all these Tea Party Republicans were honest with themselves (an exercise with which they have difficulty) and really examined Reagan’s actual record, he couldn’t win a primary election unless he ran as a Democrat.
- Ronald Reagan at 100: man and myth | Stewart J Lawrence (guardian.co.uk)
- Sunday Marks 100th Anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s Birth – The Lincoln Tribune (news.google.com)
- The Ronald Reagan Myth (ProRev.com)
- How Republicans Created the Myth of Ronald Reagan (Salon.com)
- Reagan: The Myth and the Man (CNN)
- GIPPER FEVER: ‘The Reagan Honeymoon Package’ (politico.com)
- Ronald Reagan – TIME (news.google.com)
- Ronald Reagan Myth Doesn’t Square with Reality (cbsnews.com)